A Place Of Healing – 23

Jess dropped her school bag on the kitchen floor and went to the fridge in search of milk. Cassie glanced at her as she finished filling the washing machine. Her normally cheerful and confident daughter hadn’t been quite so cheerful and confident over the past few days.

“Did you have a good day at school?”

“It was all right,” Jess replied, a thin moustache of milk on her upper lip.

“Has anything else been said? About the kilts, I mean.”

Jess shook her head.

“No. It doesn’t matter, Mum.”

Cassie sighed. It had all been started by one silly girl, Eileen Coy, one of the six girls who were to perform Scottish dancing in the talent show.

What was it she’d said?

“You can’t wear a proper kilt, Jess, because you don’t have a clan tartan.”

Eileen Coy was perhaps the least nimble of the dancers.

Jess could stand up for herself usually, but this remark had affected her. Of course, she was still trying to fit in, and perhaps this one remark had made her feel she was still an outsider. She wasn’t Scottish, she wasn’t an islander.

“I met Murdo this morning when I was shopping,” Cassie told her. “He’s invited us – you and me – to his cottage for a cup of tea and a piece of cake. Would you like that?”

“Yes. I like Murdo. I like to hear him speak Gaelic.”

“Go and change and then we’ll be off.”

*  *  *  *

Murdo MacKenzie’s cottage was built of stone, small and pretty. Murdo greeted his visitors.

Fàilte dhachaidh. Welcome. Come and sit at the table by the window.”

A black cat asleep on the window ledge opened yellow eyes, blinked and closed them again.

Murdo produced cups, saucers, a brown tea pot and a Victoria sponge cake.

“When I met your mother this morning she told me that this is your favourite, Jess,” Murdo said.

“It is, thank you.”

“She also told me that you’re worried about a kilt for the dancing. Is that right?”

Jess shrugged.

“It doesn’t matter. I can wear a plain green one. Or blue.”

“Well, now,” Murdo said from the stove where he was pouring boiling water into the pot, “I’m well past the time when I could do the Highland fling. But I’d be pleased to see my tartan swirling to the skirl of the pipes. I wonder, Jess of Skerrabost, would you do me the favour of wearing the MacKenzie tartan?”

She looked at Murdo, then at her mother, then back to Murdo.

“The MacKenzie tartan?”

He nodded.

“There are several patterns. The one I have is the Ancient MacKenzie.”

He put the pot on the table and went to a sideboard where he picked up a cardboard box and brought it to the table. He opened it and lifted off sheets of tissue paper to reveal tartan woollen cloth. There were thin stripes of amber and silver and squares of muted blues and greens.

Murdo looked at Cassie.

“You’ll not need all this for your wee lassie. You see, my wife bought it with the intention of making a kilt for our son, Fraser. She thought it would look just grand should he ever have a wedding day. Aye, he would have looked bonnie.”

He sighed.

“Well, that was not to be. But now, Jess, will you wear the Ancient MacKenzie to please this ancient MacKenzie?”

“Yes!” Jess touched the cloth. “It’s lovely.”

Cassie dabbed a tissue to her eye.

“That’s wonderful, Murdo, thank you.”

He smiled.

“It will be good to see it used in joy rather than lie here in sorrow. Take it to Mrs Dillon in the glen. She’s a fine seamstress. Now, we need a knife for that cake!”

Lucy Crichton

Fiction Editor Lucy is always on the look-out for the very best short stories, poems and pocket novels. As well as sourcing enjoyable content, she enjoys working with our established contributors, encouraging new talent, and celebrating 155 years of 'Friend' fiction!